116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball coaches assembled for an annual summer teleconference Thursday.
It was the first league-wide news conference since the additions of Belmont, Illinois-Chicago and Murray State became official on July 1 and the league’s coaches showered unanimous praise on second-year commissioner Jeff Jackson for spearheading the effort to add the Bruins, Flames and Racers.
Jackson, meanwhile, explained seeds five through 12 will play on the first day of this year’s MVC tournament. He also spoke to the ever-changing landscape of college athletics.
“We always want to be aware of what’s going on and we always want to be proactive,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t go as far as maybe some people are saying that we have a sign and we’re open for business, but at the same time we’re very mindful of what’s taking place in our landscape, and if opportunities avail themselves which would allow us to improve we obviously would be very interested in having those conversations.
“But, right now, we’re very comfortable with the 12 institutions we have.”
One of the MVC’s three new members, Murray State, is led by former Iowa State coach Steve Prohm.
Prohm, who previously coached the Racers from 2011-2015 before taking the job in Ames, said spending the past year out of coaching helped him re-energize.
“I think the number one thing you just take away (from Iowa State), just day-to-day the things you see — I’ve seen success, I’ve seen great years, I’ve seen a tough year or two — I think I’ve learned from that of what you need to do to continue to grow and not put yourself in that position,” Prohm said. “Obviously, the experience in the Big 12 going against those coaches, playing in those venues and being around those types of players, I think obviously that helps you grow as a coach.”
Meanwhile, Northern Iowa Coach Ben Jacobson was confronted with questions about life for his team post AJ Green, Trae Berhow and Noah Carter.
Green, the two-time MVC player of the year, kept his name in the NBA draft last month and, despite going undrafted, inked a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As a result of the roster turnover, Jacobson explained how summer workouts are featuring more team-based work than ever before.
“There are some summers where we do more on the individual side. A lot of skill work and put a lot of our four hours out of the eight (per week) into the individual stuff, then, there’s a summer like the one we’re in right now (where) we have a younger team. So, we’ve spent more time in full team workouts,” Jacobson said. “It’s gone well for us.”
As Jacobson works to ready his new-look roster for the upcoming season, the status of center Austin Phyfe looms large.
The sixth-year senior (long COVID) displayed encouraging cardiovascular improvement in April, participating in on-court workouts and in the weight room, but Jacobson revealed the Waverly native has hit a “speed bump” the past couple weeks.
“(Phyfe) loves being here and he wants to finish his career healthy,” Jacobson said. “The second piece is he wants to play professional basketball.
“So if everything falls into place and he gets all the way back to full health and can have the kind of year that if he is healthy he’s going to have, there would be some professional opportunities that would be waiting for him. It’s time for him to have some things go his way.”